Monthly Archives: April 2013

Shane Black Like Me, or Fear of a Shane Black Planet

Naturally you’ll be rushing out to see Iron Man 3 this weekend. I’m afraid that film won’t make a lick of goddamn sense to you if you do not read my brief recap of the career of its co-screenwriter & director, Shane Black, for The Village Voice.

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This Orange Headband Is My Orange Headband, or Relfections in a Muddy Eye

Tough-Mudder-2013-race-bib-No.-66304-writing

Some poor guy died. Hey, check out my awesome photos from the race!

I’ve waited a few days to write about my experience running the Tough Mudder last Saturday, both because I’ve had a busy week and because I didn’t — don’t — know how to address the fact that someone, a guy substantially younger than me named Avishek Sengupta, drowned during the event. Obviously, that’s a tragedy. I hope his family and friends will find some respite from their grief.

My teammates and I were all Mudder first-timers who regarded the race with intimidation and did our best to prepare for it. We joked with one another about signing the mandatory participant waiver, cheekily referred to as the DEATH WAIVER on the Tough Mudder website. But you don’t think much of it. Walk into any gym and they’ll probably make you sign something before they let you near a treadmill. And anyway you’re more likely to buy it in a car accident on your way to the race than you are while participating in it. Aren’t you?

The arduousness of the race is the Tough Mudder’s main selling point. It’s the Fight Club scenario. There are a lot white-collar shlubs like me, people of some means and privilege (I paid $161 to register) who sit staring at computers all day but would like to think of ourselves as physically hardy. Crossing a Tough Mudder finish line earns you bragging rights, plus a sporty orange headband and a free beer. (“You look like the bad guy in an 80s movie set at a ski resort,” my friend Liz told me when I showed up for a drinking session the day after the race in my hard-won headband. I regret nothing.) Continue reading

A Bit of the Old Albrecht Von: Wallenstein, reviewed.

Colin Carmody and Steve Pickering in WALLENSTEIN.

Colin Carmody and Steve Pickering in WALLENSTEIN.

My enthusiastic review of the Shakespeare Theatre’s ironicized and much-slimmed-down new version of Wallenstein, an epic of the Thirty Years War first performed in 1798, is in today’s Washington City Paper.

“It’s not an S. On my world, it means hope.”

Muddy BuddiesThis photo is from August 15, 2004. My race-partner Steph — HI, STEPH! — and I are competing in the Muddy Buddy running/biking relay race in San Dimas, CA, home of Bill & Ted.

I dug it up because at this time tomorrow I’ll be — I hope — more than halfway through the Tough Mudder, a 10-12 mile military-style obstacle course designed to be a physical and mental trial for all comers, no matter how fit and/or nuts they are. The Muddy Buddy is not all that similar: It’s only half as long as the Tough Mudder, and you’re not made to swim in icy water (they refresh the ice frequently to prevent the water from reaching a comfortable temperature) or run through a lattice of 10,000-volt live wires. (I’m not exaggerating. You can read about the Tough Mudder obstacles here.) But of the races I’ve done, mostly 10ks and 10-milers and half-marathons, it’s the one that most resembles the Mudder.

I’m starting to get nervous.
Continue reading

Personal is Heretical: Theater J’s Andy and the Shadows, reviewed.

high-fidelity-movie-poster-4fc9aac36bb54To paraphrase the leader of the free world, let me be clear: I liked Theater J’s premiere of Artistic Director Ari Roth’s long-gestating, heavily autobiographical play, Andy and the Shadows. I liked it a lot.  It’s too long, its references too scattered and too many, and at the end you feel like you’ve spent your time in the company of a hyperactive (if uncommonly sensitive and articulate) 19-year-old who just will not stop talking, ever. But these are good problems to have. Overreach is better than undereach. And the cast is just tremendous.

The play, as I note, has been around in some form since nearly a decade prior to the publication of Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity in 1995, which means it almost certainly also predates Stephen Frears’ Y2K film version of the book.

Nevertheless, the play’s likeness to the movie is sort of uncanny.

My review of the play in today’s Washington City Paper lays out the evidence. Any resemblance to fictional persons, living or dead, is accidental. Continue reading

Coming Soon to a Theater Near You, One Hopes: Promising plays from the 37th Humana Festival

Larry Bull & Jordan Baker in the Humana Festival production of “Appropriate.” Woolly Mammoth’s production of the play will open in November.

When it was founded in 1976, The Humana Festival of New American Plays was unique: It was a centralized showcase of new work from playwrights around the country. Decades later, new play development is no longer consolidated in a single spot, but the festival continues to a enjoy a reputation as a major platform for plays their authors hope will ripple out to stages of every size in the years to come.

I’d never been to Humana, so I was excited by an invitation to Louisville to cover the festival’s closing “industry weekend” with 11 other journalists from around the country, including my pal Michael Phillips, as part of a “pop-up newsroom” called Engine 31. This year’s six-play lineup was the first curated by Obie Award-winning British director Les Waters, who has earned a reputation as a midwife for important new plays by directing premieres from heavy hitters like Sarah Ruhl, Caryl Churchill, and Anne Washburn. The slate Waters programmed featured six new plays. Of the four that I saw, three were sufficiently intriguing to make me want to revisit them. Continue reading

Magic Thingdom: American Utopias and VANITAS, reviewed.

American-Utopias

I review Mike Daisey’s new monologue, American Utopias, in today’s City Paper.

Also: VANITAS, the new show from Happenstance Theatre Company.